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Kid-safe mosquito defense

Mosquitoes, those bloodthirsty spoilers of outdoor summer fun -- and their biting friends, black flies, gnats and no-see-ums -- are busily, buzzily feasting upon us.

The standard defense against the hungry horde, DEET-based repellent, now has new company: armaments that are effective yet easier and generally safer to use, especially around children. And you'll never guess where this new muscle is coming from ... flowers, with a nod to the vitamin shelf.

Here's a rundown:

BUGBAND INSECT REPELLENT

It uses geraniol, an essential oil derived from geraniums that smells good to us, but not to mosquitoes. It keeps the little pests (flies, midges and gnats, too) from alighting and biting. Geraniol's natural tendency to evaporate makes it effective for use in wristbands, which is lot less messy than sprays or lotions, and in bead form. Four bands sell for around $15 at Target and http://www.bugband.net/.

DON'T BITE ME! PATCH

The patch employs vitamin B1 to turn away mosquitoes. When vitamin B1 (thiamine) metabolizes in the body, it gives off a slight odor that insects don't like. The patch must be put on two hours before outdoor activity to give B1 time to absorb into the bloodstream and out the body's pores. Thiamine is generally considered safe, even at high doses, because excess is excreted in the urine. Lasting up to 36 hours and staying on when wet, the Don't Bite Me! Patch is available at http://www.dontbitemepatchstore.com/ (five for $5; 20 for $16). For free shipping, type îîSTAR'' into the coupon code space.

INSECT SHIELD

These garments and gear are infused with permethrin, a synthetic copy of the natural insect repellent found in chrysanthemums. It's odorless insect protection that's proven to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges (no-see-ums), according to the manufacturer. Items range from $12-$100 at http://www.insectshield.com/.

ALLCLEAR CORDLESS MOSQUITO MISTER

This outdoor spray that uses pyrethrins. Portable and operated by remote control, it dispenses a fine mist that in three minutes can make 2,000 square feet insect-free for up to six hours. It does this by killing the mosquitoes.

However, pyrethrins will kill any insect, including butterflies and ladybugs. Consumers are urged to treat their yards only when and where they need mosquito protection, but not around surface water: Pyrethins are toxic to fish and aquatic life. Use around the pool; not the lake. Do not mist when people, food, or pets are present. About $500 at http://www.allclearmister.com/ and http://www.frontgate.com/.

MOSQUITO 'COGNITO

This battery-operated fan device disperses into outdoor settings linalool, an essential oil found in many flowers and spice plants. Called Conceal by the manufacturer, linalool has a unique "scent blocking'' ability. It messes up the insects' olfactory receptors so they can't easily find their prey. The product claims it reduces mosquito landings on people and animals by up to 80 percent. It is safe to use around people, food and lakes, but area size and number of people protected are limited. About $35 from http://www.nomorebites.com/.

CONCEAL OUTDOOR MOSQUITO CANDLE

Using the same Conceal ingredient in a candle form, this is not your garden variety citronella candle. Citronella smells bad, so it forces mosquitoes to move around until they find an unprotected target. Conceal makes it difficult for a mosquito to smell anything or anyone, so they can't find their targets at all. Effective up to 100 feet, Conceal candles are available at Yankee Candle stores and online at Frontgate.com starting at around $12.

HOME REMEDIES

Some people swear by these home remedies for repelling mosquitoes, though solid research on some of them is hard to find:• Garlic: Eating garlic emits an odor that mosquitoes find offensive. But it's unclear how much garlic must be eaten to get the full effect.

Catnip oil:

Researchers at Ohio State University found that catnip can repel mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than DEET. Other herbs in the mint family are believed to do a good job of repelling mosquitoes.



Vitamin B1:

When taken three times a day, 25 mg to 50 mg of vitamin B1 is said to produce an odor that pregnant mosquitoes can't stand. It's odorless to humans, but it takes about two weeks to be effective. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found it had no effect.



Purple martins:

Yes, this little bird does eat mosquitoes, but some believe not enough to make much of a difference.



Clove oil:

It works for headaches and apparently repels mosquitoes, too. Undiluted clove oil repels mosquitoes for up to two hours. The downside is undiluted clove oil may cause a skin rash. And it smells.



Source: National Institutes of Health, Avoidmosquitobites.com, altmedicine.about.com, DrGreene.com.

-- Jan Jarvis, McClatchy Newspapers

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